The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts was Orbits biggest release last January and I was dying to read it! If you read the synopsis closely it already raises a lot of questions, the special girl Melanie, army officers raising a gun to Melanie when she is strapped in a wheelchair... what is this all about! If you are starting to wonder what this book is about solely on the synopsis I think you will be shooting blanks. The Girl with All the Gifts is written by M.R. Carey (a sort of pseudonym for Mike Carey), who is more than well known for writing both Hellblazer and Lucifer, who were filmed into the movie Constantine. M.R. Carey has also contributed to the Marvel universe for the X-Men franchise and Ultimate Fantastic Four. With such an background, The Girl with All the Gift could only turn out for the better! And well... it did many times over.

M.R. Carey starts of the story in The Girl with All the Gifts in a rather ordinary way, introducing you to the main protagonist, Melanie, of the story. From the start you can make out that Melanie is more than your ordinary kind of girl, she has this air surrounding her. Melanie is extremely smart but the people fear her. She is kept in a separate room and is transported, tied up in a wheelchair. This immediately raised many questions for me. Soon it does become apparent that Melanie isn't the only one and that many of her "classmates" suffer the same ordeal. However I took this as something that would be normal to the story of The Girl with All the Gifts, only then something happens that sort of freaked me out... The kind of food that Melanie and her friends get to eat and how they are washed... I really didn't know what to think of it. Melanie is kept at a secret military base, because the world that we know doesn't exist anymore, a plague, known as the Breakdown, has decimated the Earth and only very few survivors remain, most of the inhabitants have been transformed into mindless hungries with only one thing on their mind. Eat. Melanie's story takes place twenty years after the Breakdown and what makes Melanie so special is she is infected but able to control the hunger. 

However in such post apocalyptic stories, things usually go out of control. And they do so.. badly just soon after you get the introduction to how it goes about in the army base. The army base get overrun by a group of hungries and in order to try to stay alive they have to flee. With a lot of consequences following them. The army base was one of the last places that had some kind of defense, where would you turn to when there is nothing left? I do have to say that The Girl with All the Gifts is far from your ordinary post apocalyptic story. Yes it does have several tropes that you normally see but this isn't merely a fight for survival and finding a cure in the end. M.R. Carey involves so much more to his story and one this that has a very nice emphasis is the emotional side of many of the secondary characters like Miss Justineau and of course lets not forget the personal journey that Melanie undergoes. I think these two latter parts really made the story come to life. It's very gripping to see such an innocent young girl being forcefully navigated through a hostile world and all that she want to do is make the people around her happy. Engrossing.

As you can make up from the parts above Melanie is the main protagonist of The Girl with All the Gifts. Melanie is by far one the better protagonists that I have read about recently. She is young girl, 10 years old, and extremely smart. When you first read about her and actually all along the way, she comes over as a really innocent child who just want to live, make fun and please and help everyone around her. M.R. Carey did a great job in telling the story from her perspective as this added a nice flavor to the whole story and emphasized Melanie's struggles that more. This immediately caused me to really feel and care for Melanie and when you later start to learn the truth behind her character it really makes you think twice about her. She doesn't know what she is in the beginning but Melanie isn't dumb and as the story starts to progress she starts to put two and two together and finds out just what she is. And even then, she is still this innocent young and lost child seeking acknowledgement and comfort. Just superb. As for the secondary characters, there are three that you really follow throughout the story, that are fleeing together with Melanie. Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell and Sergeant Parks. From these three I really liked Miss Justineau, she feels closely attached to Melanie and only wants to help her get better. This strong attachment to Melanie is probably owed to the fact that Miss Justineau knows exactly what Melanie is and what her purpose at the army base is. Sergeant Parks is also a very interesting character. He is an army guy, tough and would rather shoot everything to solve problems (and perhaps in this case with Melanie it might seem a good solution...). In the beginning he forcefully handles Melanie with care not to get bitten by her and for roughly twothirds of the story he fears her greatly but Sergeant Parks soon comes to see the more human side of Melanie and I found this moment when it starts to dawn on Sergeants Parks that Melanie is more than a hungrie very beautiful to read. I have to give a hand to M.R. Carey in how he introduced us to many different characters both the main protagonist as well as the secondary characters. By focusing on a selected few he managed to flesh them out solidly showing great development all along the way.

In zombie fiction there has been many ways in which the population turned into this mindless beings. Viral contagion being one of the most sought out ideas. In introducing his contagion M.R. Carey again shows that he is full of idea and he has used a very interesting one, straight out of nature itself! I am going to spoil it because as soon as you read this I know you will be getting this book asap. There is this fungus living the amazonian rainforest that infects species of ants and takes them over completely messing with their brain chemistry and forcing them to do things it's called: Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis. I really liked this idea behind the plague in The Girl with All the Gifts. Using these things of our own biology makes you wonder if this might not happen to us. Several viruses have jumped species... how long will this take?

The Girl with All the Gifts is one of the best post apocalytic zombie stories that I have read so far. I only read the synopsis before starting the book, I had no clue that it would turn out this way! M.R. Carey builds up his story in a perfect manner first introducing you to several important characters and then dropping some hints that not everything is a rose colored as it seems, confronting you with an utterly destroyed world that has been taken over by hungries. In the midst of this all you have one brilliant protagonist the innocent 10 year old girl Melanie who doesn't know any better than learn new things from Miss Justineau. Just a few chapters in M.R. Carey readily transforms his story and throws it all in a rapid right until the end. There is a climax nearing the ending of the book and continuing from this point on, the last few pages again inspire a definite delicateness to the story with Melanie and Miss Justineau. The Girl with All the Gifts is in many parts a dark story when it comes to the influences, but Melanie really makes the sun come out and brightens the day. Great stuff and definitely a must read. 

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